Thursday, November 3, 2016

DIY (Decorate It Yourself!) Sugar Cookies

Halloween is quickly becoming one of my favorite holidays.  The last couple of years, we have thrown a party either on, or around October 31st & I've loved it.  We get to see all the kiddos in their costumes, hang out with loved ones, put up creepy decor & make tasty treats!  

This year, we created a cookie decorating station to satisfy everyone's sweet tooth.  For the cookies, I used a revised version of the sugar cookies my Mom always made.  These sugar cookies were one of my Mom's trademarks & were mandatory at every family Christmas, celebration & any other gathering we could get her to make them for.  

My Mom never cared very much about the decorating part, but it's something I always look forward to.  Which is why I thought a DIY, Decorate Your Own, cookie station sounded like a great time!  And it saved me from having to frost two huge batches of cookies, haha!  

I made up a big bowl of frosting & mixed it up into a few Halloween colors, picked out a some holiday candies & let everyone make their own treat.

Let's talk candy for a minute.  I knew that the toppings selection would be very important for these sweet treats.  Because: extra excuses to eat CANDY!  I wanted a few creepy choices, some fun ones & a mix of flavors. I started with gummy body parts, bloody bones, sour spiders & gummy teeth.  All of these goodies where found in the bulk bins at Central Market.  

I also grabbed eyeball gum (Target), Halloween sprinkles (two kinds), a sparkly mix of colored sugars, & a few fruity, cinnamon & chocolate choices from the grocery store selection of movie theater candy.  Throw each type in a cup or container & you're ready!  

For the icing, I decided to use buttercream.  It's one of my favorites because it's thick, creamy & easy to spread, but doesn't run off the sides.  It's a good choice for kiddos.  And it's tasty!  My go-to buttercream recipe is the Wilton version, which you can find here.

Soft Sugar Cookies

Adapted from Valeria Hoelscher's recipe in 
St. Theresa Altar Society Cookbook, 2008, St. Lawrence, Texas

1/2 cup Shortening
1 cup Granulated Sugar
1 teaspoon Salt
2 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Clear Mexican Vanilla
1/4 cup Cream
2 - 2 1/2 cups  All-Purpose Flour

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Cream shortening in stand mixer or using electric beaters.  Add sugar in stages and mix well.  Add salt, backin powder, egg, vanilla and cream, mixing completely.  Sift flour.  Slowly, and in stages, add in the entire sifted flour mixture.  Note: It will take between 2 and 2 1/2 cups of flour.  Check texture after you add each bit of flour, you want the dough to be 'dry' enough to roll out, but you do not want it to crumble.  If dough is too 'wet' and won't roll out, add flour a tablespoon or two at a time, until it reaches the desired consistency.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface.  Roll dough out to 1/8 inch thickness and use your favorite cookie cutter(s) to cut out cookies.  Put on greased or parchment lined cookie sheet and bake for 5-8 minutes, switching racks half-way through cooking time.  Remove from oven and let cookies cool completely on a rack.  Frost cookies with desired icing.

The yield of these cookies is hard to determine, since it all really depends on what size cookie cutter you use, but you can usually count on about 2 dozen per batch if you're using medium sized cutters.

There are a variety of icing styles you can use for sugar cookies, and you can find recipes just by hopping on pinterest or googling the type you're looking for.  My sister loves the thin, powdered sugar/milk icing, while my favorite is a nice thick buttercream (used for these Halloween cookies).  If you're looking to make intricate designs, royal icing is a good choice, but keep in mind that they can take quiet a while (typically 6-8 hours) to completely dry & harden.  

A few creations from the party:

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Kerbey Lane Fall Menu is Here!

Please note that I sampled these dishes as part of a Kerbey Lane Fall Menu Tasting.  As always, all thoughts & opinions are honest & my own. 

Even though it's still a toasty 90+ degrees most days in Austin, fall is on it's way.  Soon(ish) we'll be able to go outside without melting, & my morning cup of hot coffee won't leave me blasting the AC in the car during my commute.

But, we don't have to wait for temps to dip below 80 to enjoy the Kerbey Lane Fall Menu.  It's now available at all locations!

We recently ventured over to the South Lamar location to try a few Fall Menu items out.  You need to get yourself to the nearest Kerbey Lane and try some of these Autumn-inspired goodies.  We were so pleased with the everything we tasted!

We started out by sampling the Frito Pie, which was filled with Akaushi beef.  Just like the Frito Pies you had at Friday night football games....but so much better.   Akaushi beef, a Japenese Wagyu breed of cattle from HeartBrand Beef, is raised locally & featured throughout the Fall menu.  You can really taste the quality.  HeartBrand Beef is raised hormone & antibiotic free & their cattle are fed an all-natural, vegetarian diet.

We then moved on to the Texas Benedict.  I always love trying the different Eggs Benedict that are part of the seasonal Kerbey Lane menus, but this guy may be my favorite version.  Two huge pieces of sweet, thick cornbread topped with queso, pico, Akaushi steak, avocado & of course two perfectly poached eggs.  It's decadent, delicious & all I could want in breakfast.  A must-try.

Texas Street Tacos, again featuring Akaushi steak, were a great mix of flavors & textures.  Warm corn tortillas are stuffed with steak, caramelized onions, tomato, bright cilantro & topped with queso fresco.  A refreshing guacamole salad is served on the side....because what taco isn't made tastier with a little avocado?

Our final entree of the evening was a creamy, cozy Pork Belly Mac & Cheese.  I was immediately enamored with how oozy, gooey, cheesy the mac & cheese was.  If you think everything is better with a little more cheese (me!) you will be very happy.  It reminded me of my Mom's cheesy macaroni.  And that's a very good thing.

I loved the addition of pimentos & fresh parsley, it added a nice pop of brightness to the dish.

Kerbey Lane Cafe

For locations visit:

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Rainy Day Baking: Chocolate & Cream Cookies

Is there anything better than baking on a rainy day?  One of my favorite things to do when the weather is a little dreary, especially if said day happens to fall on a weekend, is bake up a batch of cookies.  If I'm really having my way, I'm still wearing my pj pants & there is a movie I know every word to playing in the living room.  Addams Family Values anyone?

So when all of the recent storms came through, I pulled on my trusty, worn snowflake flannels & got to work.  I decided to add white chocolate & some crushed Oreos (double stuf of course) to my go-to chocolate chip cookie.  It was a good decision.  The best decision, really.  These cookies are decadent, with a little crunch & a lotta chocolate.  

I'm normally not a huge fan of white chocolate, but it blends so well with the milk chocolate, almost mimicking the Oreo cream & cookie.  Speaking of the Oreo cream, it melts into the batter & makes for an extra special bite that melts in your mouth.  Add in a few crispy bits of crushed chocolate Oreo sandwich cookie & it's quite a treat.

Chocolate & Cream Cookies

3/4 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1/2 white chocolate chips
1/2 mini chocolate chips
12 Double Stuf Oreo sandwich cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cream together butter & both sugars.  Stir in cornstarch, baking soda, salt, egg & vanilla.  Slowly mix in flour, just until incorporated.  Add in both white & mini chocolate chips, as well as the Oreo cookies, breaking each on into a couple of pieces before adding it to the mixture.  Mix just until the Oreo cookies break up & the chips are mixed throughout the dough.

Using a cookie scoop or two teaspoons, portion out cookies onto parchment lined cookie sheets, leaving a couple of inches between each cookie.  Bake for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through.  Once baked, leave the cookies on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before placing on a cooling rack.

Monday, August 15, 2016

S'mores Drop Scones with Kerbey Lane Mix

S'mores Drop Scones.  What better summer treat to celebrate on this super-hot August day?

Please note that I was given Kerbey Lane Pancake Mix to use for this recipe.  As always, all thoughts & opinions are honest & my own. 

As a girl, one of my favorite things about going on camping trips as a Girl Scout was making ooey, gooey s'mores.  The sleeping in a tent part was ok & starting a fire was fun, but I loved the taste of a warm marshmallow & melty chocolate.  Best part of camping? I think so. :)  I even had a fascination with burning giant marshmallows on our gas stove as a pre-teen.  Because the only thing better than a toasty marshmallow is a crispy on the outside, liquid on the inside burnt marshmallow.  Ammiright?

These days, I prefer s'mores inspired baked treats.  Less messy & you can make them anytime.  No campfire required!

Today's treat is made even simpler, with the help of Kerbey Lane Buttermilk Pancake Mix.  If you've ever had the pleasure of eating in one of Austin's Kerbey Lane Cafes, I hope you tried the pancakes.  Light, fluffy with a hint of sweet (no syrup required!) Kerbey Lane's Buttermilk Pancakes are delicious.  Which is why I thought their easy pancake mix would make for a great base for these scones.

Man, I was right.  Along with the mallow bits (find them here) and mini chocolate chips, the pancake mix makes for a not overly sweet scone that's big on flavor, but has no added sugar.  And it pairs perfectly with a warm cup of coffee.

S’mores Drop Scones

Makes 12 - 15 large scones

1/2 cup finely crushed graham crackers
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup mallow bits (plus extra for topping)
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips (plus extra for topping)
1 to 1 1/4 cups half and half

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk pancake mix, crushed graham crackers, baking powder and salt.  Add in mallow bits and mini chocolate chips, reserving a few extras to top the scones with before baking.  Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, mix in half and half.  Avoid over-mixing, and start by adding 1 cup of half and half.  If the mix is overly dry, add a little more half and half, a tablespoon at a time.  Once everything is incorporated, take two large clean spoons & drop scones onto parchment-lined baking sheets.  Be sure to leave ample room between each scone on the baking sheet.  After portioning out scones, top with extra mallow bits and mini chocolate chips.  This is key!

Place scones in oven and bake for 14 - 16 minutes, or until golden brown.  These are best served day-of.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Pecan Cookies with Oats & Coconut

Last week, Andrew, being the sweet husband that he is, brought me home a surprise from work.  The gift shop inside the hospital where he works had cookies & he got a pecan coconut cookie for us to share after dinner.

I thought it'd be a nice little treat, but I did not expect it to be really, really good.  Y'all, this was one of the best cookies I've had in a long time.  Cookies are my favorite dessert & very rarely do I turn down a tasting I feel I'm a little bit of an expert on cookie goodness.

This gift shop jem was soft, bursting with pecans chunks & had just enough coconut to make it super moist & chewy.  Absolutely delicious.  I didn't want to share with Andrew, but since he was nice enough to bring it home...I had too.

Since I wasn't able to indulge in the whole cookie....or the 10 others I'm pretty sure I could've gobbled up, I set out to make a similar cookie from scratch.  I decided to start with a soft oatmeal cookie & fill it up with lots of pecans & some unsweetened coconut flakes.  

I think I did pretty well.  The cookie stays soft, & the coconut, pecan mixture sets in with the oatmeal to create a nutty bite that still has a touch of chewiness.  I made these Sunday & brought them in to work, where they were gone before lunch.

This recipe comes together in just a few minutes too, as long as you remember to soften your butter ahead of time. I always forget & have to delay my batch!

Pecan Cookies with Oats & Coconut

Makes about 4 dozen

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl, cream together butter & both sugars.  Mix in baking soda, salt, cinnamon, vanilla & eggs.  Slowly add in flour.  Fold in oats, pecans & coconut, just until everything binds together, try to avoid over-mixing.

On parchment or silicon mat lined baking sheets, spoon out cookies using either a small scoop or two teaspoons, leaving an inch or so in between each cookie.

Bake 8 - 10 minutes.  Upon removing the cookies from the oven, leave them on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before moving them onto a cooling rack.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Quick Eats: Austin's Pizza now in H-E-B! + Instagram Giveaway

* Instagram contest has now closed *

Please note that the pizza I sampled & giveaway prize were provided by Austin's Pizza.  As always, all thoughts & opinions are my own.

Pizza, is there anything better?  I love going out to pizza parlors, making homemade pies with Andrew & even, for those nights when you need dinner NOW, frozen pizzas.  We try to always keep a pizza in our freezer for those occasions, but we've struggled to find a brand that we really like.

That's why I'm SO excited that one of our favorite local go-to's Austin's Pizza, now has frozen pies, right in your local H-E-B freezer section!

There are four varieties to choose from:

- classic pepperoni

- Brazos (Canadian bacon, pepperoni, onions, green peppers, jalapenos & feta)

- Downtown Special (pepperoni, sausage, black olives & mushrooms)

- MoPac (Canadian bacon, pepperoni, sausage, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms & olives)

Last night we tried the MoPac & man, was it tasty.  Especially when you consider it was frozen!  This is not your typical grocery store pizza.

The thin crust got toasty & crispy & the entire pie was loaded with toppings that tasted incredibly fresh.  The meats combined with all of the veggies, especially the bites of tomato, made for a not too heavy, delicious meal that went from box to table in less than 20 minutes.

You can find Austin's Pizzas exclusively in the frozen food aisle of H-E-B stores in the Austin, San Antonio, Houston & San Marcos areas.

* Instagram contest has now closed *

Also, I'm giving away a coupon for a FREE Austin's Frozen Pizza, over on my instagram page, so you can try this awesomeness for yourself.  I'll be picking a winner on Friday at 5pm CST, so be sure to enter!

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Sunday Adventuring along Hwy. 290

Sometimes you just get the urge to wander.

Wildseed Farms

I often get the itch to roam in the springtime, when it's warm but not scorching & the hill country begins filling up with wildflowers.  Moving to Austin was always in my plans, but it's not until I actually arrived here that I realized my favorite Central Texas wonder: the wildflowers.  There's something so magical about bar ditches filled with yellow blooms, bluebonnet fields & front yards adorned with poppies.  If you follow me on instagram, you will see my infatuation is real.  I have many, many photos of wildflowers sprinkled throughout my feed.

Recently, Andrew & I decided we needed to do a little Hill Country wandering.  We headed down Hwy. 290 on a breezy Sunday morning with two things in mind: pastries & poppies.


Wildseed Farms

We stopped at Pie-e-tea for a few goodies before heading on to Wildseed Farms, to check out their famous poppy fields.  Neither destination disappointed.  The flaky, rich pastries at Pie-e-tea would have been worth the trip alone & my latte was equally decadent & delicious.

Wildseed Farms, which is always on my list if we head down Hwy. 290, was overflowing with poppies & people.  We arrived to a packed parking lot, but the crowds weren't nearly as bad as we imagined when we pulled in.  We roamed around the giant grounds, checking out all of the gorgeous plants & pots for sale, before making our way to the fields.  Wildseed Farms has several fields of poppies, as well as rows of various other blooms scattered around the back section.

Walking among the wildflowers is a wonderful way to spend the day.  And though it was a little early for us to take advantage of, Wedding Oak Winery now has a tasting room set up on the Wildseed Farms grounds.  We will definitely be back to try out their wine.  

Wildseed Farms

Wildseed Farms

Wildseed Farms

Wildseed Farms

Wildseed Farms

Wildseed Farms

On our way back in to Austin, we decided to stop in & take the driving tour of the LBJ Ranch.  It's a really peaceful way to see a little piece President Johnson's life.  We walked around the original buildings, including the school house pictured below & even saw a few Longhorns & wildflowers.

Our day ended on a tasty note with BBQ from Stubb's at Graceland Grocery, a fun roadside stop along Hwy. 290.  A huge outdoor space houses lots of tables, a volleyball court & room for kiddos to run around.  We happily munched on nachos & a brisket sandwich with a side of mashed potatoes, while reflecting on our fun day trip.

LBJ Ranch

LBJ Ranch
LBJ Ranch

Stubb's at Graceland Grocery


12005 W. Hwy. 290
Austin, TX
6am - 4pm

Wildseed Farms

100 Legacy Drive
Fredericksburg, TX
9:30am - 5pm

LBJ Ranch 

100 Ladybird Lane
Johnson City, TX
9am - 4:30pm

Stubb's at Graceland Grocery

8600 W. Hwy. 290
Austin, TX
11am - 9pm